Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1989, Vol. 57, No. 6,1069-1081
Copyright 1989 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 0022-3514/89/SOO. 75
Happiness Is Everything, or Is It? Explorations on the Meaning of Psychological Well-Being Carol D. Ryff University of Wisconsin—Madison
Reigning measures of psychological well-being have little theoretical grounding, despite an extensive literature on the contours of positive functioning. Aspects of well-being derived from this literature (i.e., self-acceptance, positive relations with others, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life, and personal growth) were operationalized. Three hundred and twenty-one men and women, divided among young, middle-aged, and older adults, rated themselves on these measures along with six instruments prominent in earlier studies (i.e., affect balance, life satisfaction, self-esteem, morale, locus of control, depression). Results revealed that positive relations with others, autonomy, purpose in life, and personal growth were not strongly tied to prior assessment indexes, thereby supporting the claim that key aspects of positive functioning have not been represented in the empirical arena. Furthermore, age profiles revealed a more differentiated pattern of well-being than is evident in prior research.
The question of who in American society is happy has been extensively probed by survey researchers (e.g., Campbell, 1981; Herzog, Rodgers, & Woodworth, 1982; Veroff, Douvan, & Kulka, 1981). Recently, social psychologists have become interested in factors that influence people's judgments about wellbeing, such as their mood states at the time of assessment (Schwarz & Clore, 1983) or whether their judgments are based on the frequency or intensity of positive feeling states (Diener, Larson, Levine, & Emmons, 1985). On a more general level, increased interest in the study of psychological well-being follows from the recognition that the field of psychology, since its inception, has devoted much more attention to human unhappiness and suffering than to the causes and consequences of positive functioning (Diener, 1984;Jahoda, 1958). The premise of this study is that there has been particular neglect at the most fundamental level in this realm, namely, the task of defining the essential features of psychological wellbeing. It is argued that much of the prior literature is founded on conceptions of well-being that have little theoretical rationale and, as a consequence, neglect important aspects of positive functioning. An alternative conception, based on the integration of several theoretical domains, is presented. Once operationalized, this formulation is then contrasted with indicators of well-being from the past literature to assess whether theoryguided conceptions define new dimensions of positive functioning not evident in prior empirical research.
Current Formulations of Well-Being: A Critique Although current indexes of subjective well-being have been extensively evaluated (e.g., Diener, 1984; Larson, Diener, & Emmons, 1985), such assessments have focused largely on the reliability and validity of existing measures. Thus, it is known that single-item indicators of well-being are less reliable than multiitem scales, that social desirability is not a major confound in this literature, and that ratings of life satisfaction tend to be more stable than affective aspects of well-being. When it comes to articulating the basic structure of psychological well-being, discussions nearly always center around the distinction between positive and negative affect and life satisfaction (Andrews & Withey, 1976; Bradburn, 1969; Bryant & Veroff, 1982; Diener & Emmons, 1984; Liang, 1984, 1985; Stock, Okun, & Benin, 1986). Because these dimensions are central to this literature, it is relevant to examine their origins. Bradburn's (1969) classic work on the structure of psychological well-being provided the initial distinction between...
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